MELISSA BLOCK, host:
From NPR News, this is All Things Considered. I'm Melissa Block.
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
And I'm Robert Siegel. On New Year's Day in Iraq, a new security agreement goes into effect. U.S. forces will have to abide by a whole new set of rules, and those include requesting approval from the Iraqi government for military operations. By June, American combat troops will have to withdraw from Iraqi cities, and as the U.S. drawdown begins, Iraqi forces will have to make major adjustments. NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro spent some time with U.S. and Iraqi troops who are preparing for the changes.
LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO: It's early afternoon and U.S. soldiers with the 118th Infantry, in the Baghdad neighborhood of Hurriyah, are about to head out on a foot patrol with the Iraqi Army.
Sergeant First Class ERIC RYDER: Ask them what are the kind of things they want to do on this patrol.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Sergeant first Class Eric Ryder pointedly asks the Iraqi army officer to help plan the operation. The officer gives a vague answer, and Sergeant Ryder runs down the American objectives of the patrol.
Sgt. RYDER: With the suspected gunmen, I need to go back to street 93 up in 432.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: After the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, the U.S. military began funding, training, and working with the Iraqi security forces. But it's always been American troops who've called the shots. But on January 1st, that will finally, legally change putting the Iraqis in charge of their country's security. Sergeant Ryder says that for the past month, the U.S. forces in Hurriyah have been operating as if the security pact with Iraq had already gone into effect.
Sgt. RYDER: We're right now in the stages of doing more of an over watch and helping them so they can lead their own patrols throughout their sectors, and then we're there for guidance and also support.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: For some of the Iraqis, though, the new set of responsibilities is worrying. After the patrol, Iraqi Army Lieutenant Ahmad Hassan sits down with Sgt. Ryder. Hassan is upset and asks the American for help finding spare parts for his broken-down Humvees. He has asked Iraq's Defense Ministry but it's told him there is no money for repairs. He says they told him to find the parts on the black market.
Lieutenant AHMAD HASSAN (Iraqi Army): (Through Translator) Whatever happens to our vehicle, we collect money amongst ourselves to fix it and take it to civilian mechanics. It's a big problem if the Americans leave. You see this office? It is the Americans who have given us everything to furnish it and to make it functional. If it was up to the Iraqi government, we would get nothing.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Sergeant Ryder responds that the Americans won't be able to supply them.
Sgt. RYDER: We won't actually give them the parts because we don't have the parts for their Humvees.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Lieutenant Hassan complains that none of their vehicles work right now. If an attack happened somewhere in Hurriyah, they would have to walk there, he says. And it's not only the Iraqi military that relies on the Americans here, the district government often turns to them for matters large and small.
(Soundbite of radio call)
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Company commander Captain Nathan Williams has just been asked by a district council member to deal with the Hurriyah neighborhood's feral dog population.
Captain NATHAN WILLIAMS (U.S. Army): You know, you just saw the guy come over and, you know, come ask us to take care of or look into the situation we're at. When that happens, from now on we're going to be, you know, trying to direct them to the - either the local government or the security forces to look into it instead of us. We'll definitely be there to help, assist, and advise. But as far as, you know, unilaterally, us taking care of the situation, we're really trying to get away from that at this point.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Security is much better in Hurriyah now. There hasn't been an attack against U.S. forces here in a month and there's been almost no sectarian violence. Still, Captain Williams says, he keeps having to reassure the Iraqis. Despite a June 1st deadline for Americans to withdraw from the center of Iraqi cities, joint security stations like the one in Hurriyah where Iraqis and Americans live together, will likely remain.
Capt. WILLIAMS: It's not like, you know, we're going to be here one day and then the next day, you know, we're not going to be here.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Still, Captain Williams acknowledges that things are changing. The Iraqis, he says, will have to become much more self-reliant. Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, NPR News, Baghdad.
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